To you, in the multiverse

When Gary Lineker gets off his unwashed bed, draws his grimy covers off and shudders to his desk, it’s the most work he’s done in six months. It’s an action that takes all but six seconds (he’s counting) but took an eternity to prepare for. His chair’s comfortable, but he misses the sprawling comfort of lying down. His laptop seamlessly switches on, its billion transistors all moving at his command. He finds it funny that he cannot control his thoughts in the same way. The screen flashes into a virtual existence, flashing his grizzled face with more light than he’s seen for a long time.


The world is punishing him for all his accumulated deficiencies. Light, fresh air, water, food and human interaction. He half-anticipates a barrage of people outside his room.


He’d like to disappear. Not disappear so that his loved ones are left figuring out the pieces. But before we’re ever shipped, and accidents leave wounds for evermore. The thought makes him anxious again, and neuroticism tears open little wounds somewhere inside him.


His fingers hover across the keyboard, diving at frenetic intervals, weaving a schizoid pattern that flows from a ruined mind.




We see Gary Lineker, a 40-year-old screenwriter, at his desk. He likes to think that he was born in a mid-life crisis. And then God decided that he should live a little longer. Gary looks at his monitor, and the monitor looks back at him.

He thinks of his writing partner Jose, a 30-something Purdue graduate much more successful than him. Of course, Gary's self-imposed exile may have something to do with that. But at this point, Gary's so scared of the real world that he tiptoes away from every mention. He's trying to pretend he slept through the last six months. His fingers hover over the keyboard, diving at frenetic intervals, with more sense of purpose this time.


Gary Lineker, a 40-year-old screenwriter, is pacing around his room restlessly. His steps are awkwardly linear, as if he's learning to walk. He's thinking of what to say to his writing partner, Jose. Feeling the practised panic of not being prepared for a task, he realises that he's only creative when scared out of his mind. He thinks of how that would go on his LinkedIn. The clock tells him that it'll take 20 minutes for Jose to call, and he's forced to contact the outside world. And he's just thought of an idea.

Well, what better way to see if it works than running it through his mind? His fingers hover over the keyboard, diving at intervals that match his slowing heartbeat.


Gary Lineker stands before us yet again. He's looking a little more awake, and as the parting curtains pull away, a rising sun seduces us. He's 40 years old(sigh). He's writing for the screen, on an even brighter one.

He's thinking furiously, and it's a profoundly unsexy process. It's at this moment that his phone rings. He waits for a heartbeat and then picks up.

Ben - Hey. Hey, Gary?

There's a long pause.

Gary - Give me a second, will you?

Gary's just messed up. After avoiding all calls except those absolutely necessary, he's finally forgotten to check who's calling him. That's when his phone flashes in the near-dark of almost-dawn. It's piercing, unnaturally fluorescent and a giant waste of energy when you think about it. Jose's caught up in something, he finds out. It'll be a while before they talk.

On the other end of the line, Ben Tolliver wonders where his friend has been. Gary's roommate for four years at Rutgers, he channelled a uniquely neurotic sense of humour into a decent career at a late-night comedy show.

He's also secretly hoping that Gary never picked up in the first place. That there was a piece forever missing, because perfection is a cruel mistress. He hates himself for thinking that way, but he isn’t quite sure he can stop.

He's relieved, obviously, that his friend is alive (is he?). Still, the practised monotony of his biweekly check-up calls has dulled his happiness.

The wait is stretching itself out now. Its limbs flail out onto the couch Ben's sitting on, and his thoughts now have a mind of their own. He thinks of the work he has to get to, seeping in like heme-red dawn into the unknown. That's a nice allegory to the blood-worth of truth, he realises. There may be something there. He knows he doesn't have long. But this is important.

On the other side, Gary's just thawed himself out from shock. Ben's not dear enough to simply cut the line and go into Witness Protection. But it's embarrassing enough for him to frantically wonder what he's going to say. Anxiety becomes Creativity as, outside the window, soft, warm light glances past him.

They're feeling the tepid, melancholy urge to write. They see tendrils of plot rising from the smoke of an effervescent mind, propelled by characters that haven’t quite been pinned down yet.

Not for the last time, a laptop screen brings light to an unshaven, tired face. To a man from prehistory, the light is a sign from God. An artefact of divinity. But to Ben and Gary, it's just full of worrisome words and unfinished conversations.

But they are heading where they need to be (even if it is interminably slow). And we watch as life's dull, domestic sounds breathe out to us.

Their fingers hover over the keyboard, under the taut tension of silence in progress. They dive at frenetic intervals, with skill and sadness reaching out to each other.

They're saying the same things; in different words and mindless metaphors. We hear parts of their song, a vapid dialogue playing on human strings.

(Italics - Ben; Regular - Gary)

Ben - Grieve me something to worry about.

Gary - I'd have to hang up. Are you sure you want me to do that?

Ben - What's a war without winners?

Gary - Loss without meaning. Tragedy needs celebration.

Ben - Your tragedy needs celebration.

Ben - I want to know you're okay. That you'll be okay.

Gary - Are you sure?

Ben - You aren't supposed to ask me that.

That's when the beepers go off. Gnarly sounds, and thorny lights pierce consciousness. Jose is calling back, and he has all the leverage. Ben's scheduled hours begin with the first calls of the day. They're out of time. Their personal hours are over, and the machine has them now.

Gary - Hey, Ben, I'm so sorry.

Ben - It's alright, man. Listen. Promise me you'll pick up another time.

There's an uncomfortable pause.

Gary - Yeah, I will.

Ben - Where the hell have you been?

For some reason, the conversation seems complete. Ben knows the answer is somewhere on these pages. And what Gary really wants to say is hidden somewhere, in a symphony between man and machine. Maybe he'll get to read it someday.

Written by Arjun Khade for MTTN

Edited by Nishant Choudhary for MTTN

Featured artwork source Marvel

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